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Getting ahead of poverty

Staff writer

Beth Gott moved to Peabody in 2006 to be with her sweetheart. Three years after his death, she realized she needed a hand up to get out of poverty

Her partner died of small cell lung cancer.

“He couldn’t withstand the rides for chemotherapy,” Gott said.

She ended up being his caregiver. Afterward, she needed support and the know-how to help herself.

A program begun this year in Peabody gave Gott the tools to lift herself up, and she has availed herself of the opportunity to adjust what needed adjusting in her life and move ahead of poverty.

She learned basic woodworking and began carving spoons.

“I haven’t gotten around to selling them,” she said.

She might market them later, but for now she’s still in “learning mode.”

A bag of her handcrafted wooden spoons showed progress as she improved her techniques.

If she made a mistake with a spoon she intended to be used for stirring pots of food, she re-carved it into a smaller spoon. Her assortment now ranges from cooking spoons all the way down to spoons that can be used to serve honey.

Now, Gott is preparing to take the next segment of the Getting Ahead program, beginning in the fall.

The program began a series of 20 weekly meetings in January. Gott and three other program participants were recognized at a graduation ceremony last week at Peabody Elementary School.

Program director Mark Rogers said he and program graduates would have block parties over the summer so other Peabody residents can have fellowship time with their neighbors, see what the program has done for them, and perhaps give neighbors ideas about others who might want to enroll in the next beginners’ segment of classes.

Over the course of the program, participants look at what life is like in poverty, Rogers said.

“We call it the tyranny of the moment,” he said.

Participants examine how they get through it when a crisis arises.

“It’s not lack of money,” Rogers said. “It’s lack of resources.”

They include not only financial resources but mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and language resources, he said. Getting out of poverty means convincing a person he or she can escape it.

He teaches the “hidden rules” of financial status. People in poverty use a language that bespeaks their social status. Middle-class people use different language as they go about daily life. People living in the upper class use yet a third language.

Class participants make a chart and place themselves on it. They then look at where they want to go and what they need to go there.

Their graduation was marked with a traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” procession, a welcome speech by Christina Roussello, an address by school counselor Mackenzie Young, a presentation by Emma Pease of Vintage Bank, introduction of graduates by Rogers, and closing remarks.

Graduates received money orders from Vintage Bank and were invited to talk to bank staff about opening accounts.

“I have made so many new friends,” Gott said as Rogers handed her a certificate of completion. “I have friends supporting me. God bless you all.”

Last modified May 30, 2024

 

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